In the cell phone age, so much of what our children do is online. Unfortunately, sometimes kids make poor or impulsive choices, and those bad choices can happen online. Until recently, kids who sent explicit photos to other kids online could face child pornography charges, even if they were minors. As a result, in Pennsylvania, the legislature passed a law directly addressing minors who have or send explicit images of other minors online. But this is still a crime; a conviction can result in a criminal charge and record.
A criminal record for transmitting sexually explicit images can still have serious consequences for a minor. A criminal record can impact their future educational choices and even whether they can attend graduate school or hold a professional license in the future. Even a juvenile conviction can have a lasting impact on your child's life. Fortunately, we have options to clean up your child's criminal record in Pennsylvania.
The best way to effectively clean up your record in Pennsylvania involves expunging the offense, which destroys the records. But your child may not qualify for expungement under Pennsylvania law. In that case, they may be able to limit public access to their records by sealing them using Pennsylvania's Act 5 or Clean Slate statutes.
Charges for Transmission of Sexually Explicit Images by a Minor
Your child can face charges for transmission of sexually explicit images by a minor if they knowingly transmit a sexually explicit image of themselves or possesses a sexually explicit image of another minor who is over 12. The statute states:
(a) Summary offense.--Except as provided in section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children), a minor commits a summary offense when the minor:
(1) Knowingly transmits, distributes, publishes or disseminates an electronic communication containing a sexually explicit image of himself.
(2) Knowingly possesses or knowingly views a sexually explicit image of a minor who is 12 years of age or older.
18 Pa. Stat. § 6321(a) (2012). This statute doesn't apply to prohibited sexual acts, such as those involving the sexual abuse of children recorded on film or video. This section also doesn't apply to more explicit sexual images or those shot for a commercial purpose:
(d) Application of section.--This section shall not apply to the following:
(1) Conduct that involves images that depict sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse or penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus of a minor, masturbation, sadism, masochism or bestiality.
(2) Conduct that involves a sexually explicit image of a minor if the image was taken, made, used or intended to be used for or in furtherance of a commercial purpose.
18 Pa. Stat. § 6321(d) (2012). The state may still prosecute these more serious sexually explicit images under more strict child pornography statutes.
Penalties for a Minor Transmitting Sexually Explicit Images in Pennsylvania
Transmitting a sexually explicit image is still a serious offense in Pennsylvania, even if your child is a minor. A conviction for this offense can be a third-degree or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances involved. If your child transmits a sexually explicit image of themselves or possesses or transmits an image of another minor that is 12 or over, it will be a third-degree misdemeanor:
(b) Misdemeanor of the third degree.--Except as provided in section 6312, a minor commits a misdemeanor of the third degree when the minor knowingly transmits, distributes, publishes or disseminates an electronic communication containing a sexually explicit image of another minor who is 12 years of age or older.
A conviction for a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is punishable by a fine of $250 to $5,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
If your child takes or distributes a sexually explicit photo or video of another minor without consent and intends to coerce, torment, or harass another child, it will be a second-degree misdemeanor. The statute states:
(c) Misdemeanor of the second degree.--Except as provided in section 6312, a minor commits a misdemeanor of the second degree when, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, torment, harass or otherwise cause emotional distress to another minor, the minor:
(1) makes a visual depiction of any minor in a state of nudity without the knowledge and consent of the depicted minor; or
(2) transmits, distributes, publishes or disseminates a visual depiction of any minor in a state of nudity without the knowledge and consent of the depicted minor.
A conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania is punishable by a fine of $500 to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
Sealing Your Child's Record for Transmitting a Sexually Explicit Image Through Clean Slate
For many years, only a fraction of people qualified to seal their criminal records in Pennsylvania actually did so. Many didn't realize they were eligible or didn't know how to complete the complex process. As a result, the Pennsylvania legislature passed legislation in 2019 to make sealing criminal records available to more people. The new Clean Slate law now allows the state to seal some criminal records after five to ten years automatically. You may qualify for automatic sealing if:
- You have a summary conviction,
- You have a second-degree or third-degree misdemeanor conviction,
- You have an ungraded conviction that can result in no more than two years in jail, or
- You don't have a conviction because the state dropped the charge or the court failed to convict you.
The state will automatically seal a qualifying summary conviction after five years and a misdemeanor after ten. However, the waiting period can change if you have a juvenile conviction. If you have a summary conviction or misdemeanor conviction for sending sexually explicit images as a juvenile, you may be able to expunge your record. Expunging your records is a more effective solution, destroying them rather than concealing them from public view. You may qualify to expunge your record if:
- You completed your sentence or supervision six months to five years ago,
- You are now 18,
- You don't have any additional arrests or prosecutions in the last five years,
- You meet the statutory requirements for sealing a juvenile record.
You will need to petition the court to expunge your juvenile record.
Sealing Your Child's Record for Unlawful Transmission of Sexually Explicit Images with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify to seal your record under Clean Slate, you may still be able to seal it under Pennsylvania's Act 5, which applies to a wider range of charges. You may qualify to petition the court for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been at least ten years since you completed your sentence,
- You don't have more arrests or convictions punishable by a year or more in jail, or
- You have a conviction for an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by no more than five years in jail.
You Need the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team
If your child has a conviction for transmitting sexually explicit images as a minor, it may be time to consider your options for cleaning up their record and securing their future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.